Thursday, April 23, 2015

Cruising the Web

You might not have noticed it, but recently Congress has worked together in a bipartisan fashion to accomplish some things.
Suddenly, Congress is actually doing things. Making compromises. Passing legislation. Confirming people.

In short order, Congress has passed the "doc fix" to close a Medicare payment loophole that had been kicked down the road dozens of times, moved toward giving President Obama fast-track negotiation authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, scheduled a vote on the long-delayed confirmation of Loretta Lynch as attorney general and, with it, struck a deal on legislation aimed at human trafficking.
So what made the difference? Harry Reid is no longer in control. And Mitch McConnell restored regular order. And even some Democrats are relieved to actually do their jobs. Bills are moving through committees and lawmakers can contribute during that process instead of having Pelosi or Reid write the bills without any input from their own people. Chris Cillizza writes,
My sense is that it's a combination of these factors. Yes, it is true that McConnell has opened up the amendment process in the Senate, allowing more voices to be heard and members -- Republicans and Democrats -- to feel as though they are a bigger part of the process. But, it is also true that McConnell (and House Speaker John Boehner) believe deeply in the need to demonstrate a capacity to govern as opposed to simply stand in opposition in advance of the 2016 election. And, Obama is, without question, in search of major and minor second-term accomplishments.

Add it up and you get the rarest of things: a genuine interest on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue to work together. As Moore notes, this kumbaya moment isn't likely to extend to pricklier fights on such issues as immigration or health care. Those bigger-ticket battles will continue to be largely litigated at the legal level and on the 2016 campaign trail.

But that's for another day. Today we celebrate a political process that is moving. Finally.

Daniel Henninger writes that the Democrats "own Iran."
The Democrats now own Iran—lock, stock and smoking centrifuges.

It isn’t just the Senate compromise on the Corker bill that made the Iran nuclear deal the party’s exclusive political property. The Democrats own Iran’s entire penetration in the region—Yemen, the Gulf of Aden, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon—pretty much anywhere Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants to take them.

Senate Democrats, attempting a magical illusion on American voters, say the Iran nuclear threat and the Iran terror threat are separate realities.

Before the Senate’s recent “compromise” vote on Sen. Bob Corker’s Iran review bill, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons and other Senate Democrats, at the White House’s insistence, said while they abhorred Iran’s support for terrorism, it had to be separated from the historic arms deal....

Until recently, the Democrats at least could argue that because Mr. Obama ended George Bush’s war in Iraq, he immunized them from direct political blame for the region’s troubles. That the decision to reduce the U.S.’s postwar presence in Iraq to zero allowed Islamic State to metastasize unimpeded was a morass they could push off into the ethers of the “hopeless” Middle East.

Except that the Democratic president erected a steel cable connecting himself directly to Tehran. This being Barack Obama, history had ordained that only he could take on Planet Iran and persuade its population of fanatic Shiite ayatollahs to change their worldview. In the years since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini presided over the American hostages, taking down a U.S. presidency, Iran’s Islamic Republic has had just one other Supreme Leader—today’s Ayatollah Khamenei, the man at the other end of the steel cable tethered to the White House.

It is now generally understood that completing a major nuclear-arms agreement with Iran was an obsession of Mr. Obama’s from early in his presidency. Up to a point, the Democrats’ normal instincts for self-preservation prevailed. Sufficient numbers of Senate Democrats—Mr. Coons, Bob Menendez, Ben Cardin, Tim Kaine, Chuck Schumer—raised enough questions of substance about the deal to credibly put space between them and a president assembling a major arms-control agreement out of his own head. The risks for Democrats were obvious.

But starting about two weeks ago, the Democrats’ Iran hedge collapsed. The compromise on the Corker bill virtually ensures that whatever agreement John Kerry outputs in Switzerland—a deal that increasingly looks built on sand—will pass unimpeded through the Senate. It looks a lot like ObamaCare, with congressional Democrats once again doing a pass-it-to-find-out-what’s-in-it for another Obama legacy.

But Saudi Arabia isn’t the American Hospital Association, and Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani isn’t Nancy Pelosi. The religious and military forces in motion in the Middle East now are powerful and volatile. Vladimir Putin’s decision amid all this to ship the sophisticated S-300 air-defense system to Iran was a thunderclap event. The ever-omniscient president dismissed it as no surprise.

We assume Barack Obama and John Kerry are telling Senate Democrats that if something blows, they’ll handle it, the way Mr. Obama could command Kathleen Sebelius and HHS to “fix” the ObamaCare glitches. The Iran framework’s fix is the assurance of “snapback” sanctions, a word with no meaning whatsoever.

For those who believe that government bureaucrats are somehow more honest and moral than those in the private sector, pay more attention to the entire VA scandal. Every few days we hear another horror story such as this.
In a voice choked with emotion, Rustyann Brown told lawmakers Wednesday how the Department of Veterans Affairs routinely turned its back on veterans and their families, even in death.

Mrs. Brown, a former employee in the VA’s Oakland office, was assigned one day in 2012 to a special team given the job of reviewing more than 13,000 veterans’ claims dating back to the mid-1990s that had never been addressed. As they sorted through the mounds of papers, she said, they often discovered that the veterans had long since died without receiving the requested benefits.

In those cases, Mrs. Brown testified, VA managers instructed employees to mark the files “NAN” — for “no action necessary.” But she said taking that step also prevented a veteran’s survivors from receiving benefits.

“If the widow ever came in to file a claim … there’s nothing there,” she told the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, her voice breaking. “There’s no information about her husband. On a daily basis, we were seeing piles of [claims] set aside. It was our obligation to contact that family. We didn’t do that. We should have.”

A VA official from Oakland assured lawmakers that the agency has since taken care of all the old claims, but Mrs. Brown called that “a lie.”

VA Assistant Inspector General Linda Halliday testified Wednesday that as recently as last month, her office discovered another 1,300 old documents in the Oakland office, including “claims that still require action.”

“In some of these cases, veterans’ benefits were affected,” she said.

The new tale of neglected veterans and their families emerged as VA whistleblowers and a government watchdog told the House committee Wednesday that the agency is still wracked with employee retaliation and widespread foul-ups in delivering veterans’ benefits, long after top VA officials claimed problems have been fixed.

Witnesses described mental abuse of VA workers and falsifying records to erase claims backlogs. One witness even told lawmakers about a VA manager in Philadelphia who allegedly compelled subordinates at a party to pay his wife $30 each to tell their fortunes.

The Clinton team has its tactics in place to fight back against the allegations in the Peter Schweizer book, Clinton Cash. They'll attack the author as a right-wing operative and say it's all partisan bile. But what they won't do is actually refute the allegations.

John Podhoretz writes,
It’s always been the Clinton way to deal with attacks by raising questions about the credibility and motives of the attackers while simultaneously pooh-poohing the seriousness of any charge by saying the allegations are old, that there’s nothing new to them.

John Podesta, a senior official in her campaign, said on Charlie Rose’s show on Monday, “The facts: There’s nothing new about the conspiracy theories.”

This, too, is a key Clintonian phrase. Last week, when it was revealed Congress had asked back in 2012 whether Hillary Clinton had a private e-mail system and got no answer, her spokesman Nick Merrill said, “There is nothing new here.”

The database Nexis reveals the first time anyone used the phrase “there’s nothing new here” in relation to the Clintons was on Sept. 20, 1992, in an interview on CNN with candidate Bill’s spokesman, George Stephan­opoulos. Asked whether Bill Clinton sought preferential treatment from his state’s senator when it came to the Vietnam draft, Stephanopoulous answered: “This is an old story. It’s been written time and time and time again and now. It just appears 46 days before the election. But there’s nothing new there.”

The story was true, of course. But so what? In the eyes of the Clintons, it was old, and so didn’t matter. Apparently, if the charge were new, then somehow, it would be more significant than if it were old.

We’ll see if Peter Schweizer has anything new. We’ve already seen we won’t see anything new from the Clintons. For them, sliming an enemy and denying everything have worked for nearly a quarter-century. Like Hillary herself, it’s a golden oldie.

Of course there are groups working to defeat Hillary Clinton, just as there are groups that are working to elect her and defeat whomever the GOP nominee turns out to be. That's the way politics work. It isn't nefarious; it's everyday politics.

No wonder MSNBC hosts are happy to advocate raising taxes. They know that they won't be paying for them.
MSNBC’s hosts and guests regularly call for higher taxes on the rich, condemning wealthy individuals and corporations who don’t pay their taxes or make use of loopholes. But recent reports, as well as records reviewed by National Review, show that at least four high-profile MSNBC on-air personalities have tax liens or warrants filed against them.

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post notes that MSNBC isn't bothering to comment on their four hosts who love talking about spreading the wealth around, but aren't so clean when it comes to paying their own taxes.
She and these other tax-payment-challenged TV personalities work for the network of activist, problem-solving government. Just watch one of MSNBC’s famous “Lean In” commercials or scan a day’s worth of coverage. In the collective ethic of MSNBC, there can be no excuse for tax delinquency.

And there’s even less of an excuse for MSNBC’s non-response to all this news. National Review fetched no response from the network. When the Erik Wemple Blog knocked today, the network again clammed up. A spokeswoman offered to go off-record with an explanation of things. We responded that we weren’t interested in spin that we couldn’t publish. Is it that hard for MSNBC to take a simple stand in favor of our common civic obligations?

Kirsten Powers chastises President Obama for being much more comfortable bashing Christians for sins committed back in the Middle Ages than in speaking up about the massacre of Christians today.
A week and a half after Obama's National Prayer Breakfast speech, 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded for being "people of the cross." Seven of the victims were former students of my friend and hero "Mama" Maggie Gobran, known as the "Mother Theresa of Cairo" for her work with the poorest of the poor. She told me these dear men grew up in rural Upper Egypt and had gone to Libya seeking work to support their families. They died with dignity as they called out to their God, while the cowardly murderers masked their faces.

Rather than hectoring Christians about their ancestors' misdeeds, Obama should honor these men and the countless Middle Eastern Christians persecuted before them.

Monday, there was more horrifying news: ISIL terrorists released a video purporting to show more religiously motivated killing. According to CNN, before beheading and shooting two groups of Christians in Libya, a speaker said, "The Islamic State has offered the Christian community (the opportunity to convert to Islam or pay a tax for being Christian) many times and set a deadline for this, but the Christians never cooperated."

So they kill them.

Indeed, let's talk more about the Crusades.

Mark Perry revisits 18 of the apocalyptic predictions made around the time that the first Earth Day was celebrated.